One of the few things keeping Giants fans happy this offseason is looking forward to next year.
Albeit, Big Blue supporters will be more than happy to forget the wasted opportunity the team had in 2012. Despite a few missing pieces, New York had returned the core of a team that ran the table in the 2011 playoffs after winning the NFC East.
Now, it seems as though the Giants will have a little bit harder of a time returning some main components of a team that, for no reason other than their 2012 collapse, could easily return to the playoffs and win a few games once they get there.
But before we start looking that far ahead, the Giants need to focus on which free agents (26 in all) they want to stay for next season and which they will let go of.
Let's look at each free agent alphabetically, starting with the unrestricted guys.
The most noise from Barden's offseason came from his interview with Vibe magazine, in which the fourth-year receiver said, "I would love to re-sign with the Giants. I’ve made [NYC] a home, made friends here and media connections for my life after football."
Barden exploded for 138 yards on nine receptions on Sept. 20 against the Panthers, but struggled to significantly contribute throughout the rest of the season, mostly due to a concussion suffered against the Eagles on Sept. 30.
If Victor Cruz isn't resigned, forcing Barden to take on a bigger role, then this is a much different conversation. But if he's not too much money, I see no problem with keeping him on the team to help with the depth on the receiving core.
When he sees consistent playing time, he's good for a few catches usually around 20 or 30 yards. Nothing special, but again, worth it for the depth he helps create.
Money may be a big issue in keeping Beatty, who had a solid 2012 and is poised for a breakout year in 2013. But the general consensus is that not resigning Beatty would be a terrible move for the Giants front office.
The UConn alum was huge in protecting Manning this season, and resigning him will make even more sense if the Giants bring back Kevin Boothe as well to keep some overall solid consistency.
Losing Beatty would mean that more inexperienced players such as James Brewer would see more playing time at tackle. This wouldn't be the end of the world, as Brewer has the look to be a solid player in his own right soon enough, but it would be a step backwards that New York could easily avoid.
Strong tackles don't grow on trees, and if the Giants are going to spend a good amount of dough on any players this offseason, Beatty should certainly be one of them.
It's unfortunate how badly Beckum's time with New York has been ruined by injuries, the latest of which coming in last year's Super Bowl and limiting him to only four games this season before heading back to the IR.
He had a decent college career with Wisconsin after converting to the tight end position from defense, but has yet to make any significant impact in the NFL (including no receptions in his four 2012 games to rub it in).
The Giants can use some depth in the tight end position, but through the draft or elsewhere, they can easily find someone else to replace Beckum.
The Giants had been looking for a tight end capable of consistently making big plays ever since Jeremy Shockey left, and they found that man in Martellus Bennett in 2012.
After spending his first four years playing backup to Dallas's Jason Witten, Bennett made the most of his opportunity with the Giants, catching 55 passes for the most productive year of his career by far.
The question with Bennett will not be whether or not he should be re-signed, just whether or not the Giants will be willing to pay the big salary that Bennett will probably ask for and definitely deserves.
I hope and believe that both sides will be more than willing to work things out (Bennett tweeted back in December that he plans on retiring in New York), because Bennett certainly seems to have the stuff to make a long, successful career out of the opportunity he's received in New York.
Rocky Bernard has been solid for the Giants ever since he came to the team from Seattle in 2009. In his four seasons with the team he's averaged a sack and more than 15 total tackles per season.
Those are okay numbers, and it has been extremely beneficial to have such a veteran like Bernard on the line, but it's definitely about time to move on.
The Giants version of Rocky Bernard was never the version that you saw in Seattle, where he showed seasons of brilliance in 2004 and 2008. And with the amount of potential coming from the youth in the defensive line core, the Giants are in a position to say, "Thanks Rocky, you're work is done here."
Blackburn has spent all eight of his seasons out of Akron with the Giants, playing in either 15 or 16 games for six of those. He's been a solid linebacker for the team for the majority of his career, but he's never really been anything better than average.
The Giants don't seem to want to spend a lot of money on re-signing Blackburn, and more and more it seems like they shouldn't even re-sign him at all. One main reason for this is the wealth of linebackers available in the draft that the Giants could very likely pick in the first round, such as Alec Ogletree out of Georgia.
There's a lot of inexperience at the linebacker position if Blackburn departs, one of the main reasons to keep him being having a veteran to teach some of the younger guys and potential draft picks. But serving as a mentor probably won't be enough of a reason for the Giants to re-sign him when the time comes.
The big man out of Cornell has been huge in protecting Eli Manning, and may be just as important to bringing back to the team as Will Beatty is.
After a solid 2012, Boothe is starting to solidify himself as one of the best pass and run blockers on the team. I think it would be silly for the Giants to let him go.
In what would be his fourth year with the team, Carr would be one of the most solid back up quarterbacks in the league (and was maybe even the best backup in New York last season) if re-signed.
Accuracy is probably Carr's major problem, but he's probably still good enough to be an average or slightly below average starting quarterback in a lot of other places in the league.
He knows the system, he won't cost too much, and the Giants should resign him. Simple as that.
As far as No. 4 wide receivers go, the Giants could do a lot worse than Domenik Hixon.
In his five years with the Giants, he's been both a solid wide receiver and punt returner that's athletic enough to shoot off a big play every now and then.
I can't imagine Hixon asking for too much money when negotiation time comes along, so it doesn't really seem necessary to cut a solid veteran who won't cost too much and really wants to be a Giant.
Locklear played double duty for the Giants last season, playing both right and left tackle whenever David Diehl or Will Beatty were out. He showed a lot of good signs for a veteran journeyman, but a bad knee injury forced him into surgery and ended his 2012 season in early December.
The offensive line situation is definitely one of the trickier calls for the Giants this off season. In a critical sense, everyone seems to be either an untested youngster or a slow veteran on the way out.
Locklear is a solid player, but his age (31) and knee might be against him. There will have to be watchful eyes on him, but I say bring him back.
Lumpkin is yet to show anything extremely impressive at this point in his career, but he also hasn't had a ton of opportunities to prove himself outside of his 2011 season with Tampa Bay.
I don't think Lumpkin is ever going to compete for the starting job, or even the second-string for that matter, but he does have the potential to help the Giants running back core for a few more years to come.
He's pretty quick off the line of scrimmage and from his very limited playing time this season, he's shown that he's not too bad at breaking tackles. He's nothing phenomenal, but the Giants have more pressing issues at running back to address.
The 2012 version of Kenny Phillips was a sad shadow of the 2011 version of Kenny Phillips, but going forward he's still Kenny Phillips, and he's still a solid presence at safety against any quarterback.
Personally, I think Phillips should be re-signed. Any time I think about his rougher performances this past season, I think about how good he was in 2011 and how it was more of a telling sign of his true abilities than when he faltered in 2012.
Realistically, I don't think the Giants will be willing to pay for what Kenny Phillips is going to ask for. I can see Phillips, still just 26, making a pretty good career for himself somewhere else in the NFL. But as far as the Giants go, it's probably any day now that the two part ways.
Again, the linebacker position will be one of the most scrutinized as the Giants head into the draft and negotiate contracts, but Keith Rivers might be an easy decision for the front office to make.
His health will be his biggest issue, as he missed the entire 2011 season with a wrist injury. But when he avoids injury, he's shown that he's probably one of the best athletes on the entire roster.
It's tough to say if Rivers is the linebacker of the future, seeing as he's yet to play all 16 games in a season. Anytime he gets the chance to play though, he seems to make the most of it.
If the Giants can keep him for a decent price, they should.
Rogers never saw a snap for the Giants as he lost his 2012 season thanks to a blood clot. It's hard to imagine that he'll see a snap in New York for 2013 either.
When Rogers keeps his weight under control, he's shown over his 11-year career that he is a surprisingly athletic defensive tackle. But now, a year removed from seeing any action and 33-years-old, there isn't much motivation to bring Rogers back, especially with all of the issues they are facing at the position already.
I'm not sure if Rogers' career is over, but his time (or lack thereof) with the Giants probably is.
In his sixth year in the league and second with the Giants, Tryon saw time in all 16 games at cornerback and failed to do anything impressive.
No interceptions, about one tackle per game, and nothing else outstanding when it comes to overall play. If he comes back next season, it won't be as cornerback.
It will be interesting to see whether or not Tryon can prove himself at, or even get invited to, training camp as someone deserving of a special teams spot. I don't see it happening though.
Any time a kicker struggles toward the end of the season and still finishes the year with almost 85 percent of his kicks made, you can bet that guy is a pretty good kicker.
There's no reason why the Giants shouldn't re-sign Tynes, who could very well be the best kicker in the league anytime he's on the field.
Here we go.
It seems like Osi Umenyiora has been the talk of the "who will stay and who will go" debate for the Giants every year since they won the Super Bowl in 2007. Another ring in 2011 seemed to be enough to keep him on board for the rest of his contract, but a disappointing 2012 seems like it was enough to finally push him over the edge.
Even after ten years in the league, Umenyiora is athletic enough and smart enough to be a starter making a lot of money on a lot of different teams. And although Giants fans, including myself, would love to see Umenyiora stay for at least one more playoff run, it seems like he's ready to venture off elsewhere.
My prediction is that he will still be an effective, but not as effective, player somewhere else in the league with a pretty solid contract. And like most people are predicting, his days in New York are done.
He's been hurt and out of the game for too long to be significant at cornerback for the Giants.
If he gets an invite to camp and earns a spot on special teams then I won't be surprised, but it probably won't happen.
Now on to the restricted free agents.
Quick. Which Giants running back had the most touchdowns last season? That's right, the 26-year-old led Giants backs with eight rushing touchdowns in only ten games.
It's terribly unfortunate that Brown suffered a broken leg in New York's Nov. 25 whipping of Green Bay, as he may have been a well-needed spark down the line.
But assuming Brown's leg heals well this offseason, there's no reason the Giants should not bring him back. If he does heal up, I imagine Brown and David Wilson seriously competing with Ahmad Bradshaw for the starting job come training camp.
Any way you slice it, Brown was the best safety on the team and one of the best defensive players overall on the team in 2012. With eight interceptions after playing in all 16 games, it's safe to say he made the most of his opportunity.
Brown's fate might rest a lot upon whether or not Kenny Phillips returns in 2013, but Brown played well enough in 2012 to earn a starting spot even if Phillips does come back.
He most likely won't be picking off quarterbacks every other game next season, but his play will be more than worthy of a contract.
What is there to say about Victor Cruz?
In his second NFL season, the receiver out of Massachusetts caught 86 passes for 10 touchdowns and more than 1,000 yards. And it was a step down from the year before.
The Giants should take out a pen and pad, listen to any wild demand Victor Cruz can think of, and then give him double that. He's already one of the best wide receivers in Giants history and he has a shot to have an amazing career in New York.
In short, Victor Cruz should be paid a lot of money.
Bear Pascoe seems to be all set to re-sign with the Giants for the 2013 season.
This is a great move by the Giants, especially considering that it will most likely only be for one year and will come extremely cheap.
Pascoe isn't prolific, but he's a very solid blocking tight end and, as we know from the Giants' Super Bowl run a year ago, he's keen to make a clutch performance every once in a while.
Solid player, good move.
Torain offers too small of a sample size to make any real serious judgments.
On the one hand, he has a few 100-yard games in his time with the Redskins, but on the other he's already had to deal with multiple serious injuries and did pretty much nothing for the Giants this year.
It's not like they're going to be wasting money on Torain, but it also doesn't look like he's going to make an impact any time soon.
Lastly, let's look at the exclusive rights free agents.
Cordle, an Ohio State product, also provides an extremely small if not nonexistent sample size to work with. Nonetheless, he's at least proved himself versatile and a worthy backup in case David Baas goes down.
The William and Mary product hasn't seen a ton of action with the Giants yet, but in the few cases that he's seen playing time he's shown off his athleticism and potential pretty well.
The Giants should keep him on, if only for the fact that it wouldn't be terrible if he had to step in as a replacement.
Young, unproven, but a lot of potential. He sat out the entire season with an injury, but his athleticism and college play will be enough to keep him around to give him a shot.
The Giants should keep these young guys.